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Gender 101 and How to Be An Ally

At Girls Gone Strong we consider there isn’t any mistaken method to have a physique and acknowledge that everybody who identifies as a lady is a “actual lady.”


As somebody who works with and advocates for transgender and gender nonconforming youth, I actually worth this specific assertion from the GGS mission.

GGS believes in serving to women turn into our greatest, most genuine selves, and in uplifting different women to do the identical. Understanding the complexities of gender and gender id could be a important a part of affirming somebody’s genuine self.

Though transgender and gender nonconforming people are extra seen within the media, popular culture, and American political panorama than ever earlier than, not everybody spends a whole lot of time enthusiastic about the complexities of gender. There is lots to unpack from behind the phrases “gender” and “gender identity,” and we aren’t usually taught this stuff until we take a women’s research or gender research course.

This means it’s doubtless you’ve heard individuals use language and phrases associated to gender that you could be not perceive. That’s okay! Language is all the time evolving within the LGBTQ group and typically it’s exhausting to sustain. three

So let’s delve into Gender 101 and break a few of these issues down.

Learning the Language

When we’re born, we’re assigned both male or feminine id (what we often simply name “sex”) based mostly on medical elements resembling hormones, chromosomes, and the looks of our genitalia. This is known as assigned intercourse or intercourse assigned at delivery. 1

If you’re speaking a few transgender individual (on this instance a transgender lady), as an alternative of claiming “She used to be a boy” or “She was born a boy,” it’s preferable to say “She was assigned male at birth.” Using this language clearly demonstrates that the intercourse task was one other individual’s choice and not associated to how somebody feels inside, or their gender id.

We all have a gender id, each single one among us. This is our inner sense of being male, feminine, a mixture of these issues, or none of these issues. 6

Though “LGBTQ” is an acronym that lumps collectively sexual orientation and gender id, the 2 phrases don’t imply the identical factor. Sexual orientation (similar to being homosexual, bisexual, lesbian, or queer) is about our attraction to others. Gender id is about who’re are inside. four

A transgender individual is somebody whose gender id doesn’t match the intercourse they have been assigned at delivery. It’s okay to use the time period trans as shorthand for transgender. (Note that “transgendered” is just not grammatically right and shouldn’t be used.)

Being trans just isn’t a part. Assume that trans people are as positive of their gender as you’re of yours.

We are in all probability most conversant in both male to feminine transgender individuals (typically shortened MTF) or feminine to male (FTM) transgender individuals. Though loads of trans people have the expertise of transitioning from one gender to one other, there are lots of who’ve extra complicated gender identities.

This might imply that their gender identities are fluid and change over time. They might not see themselves mirrored within the gender binary of male/feminine id or might reject the thought of gender altogether. Such people might refer to themselves as nonbinary or genderqueer and use gender-neutral pronouns akin to they/them. 1

You might have heard trans people telling their tales and saying they have been “born in the wrong body” or need a “body to match their brain.” This is the expertise of some trans people, however not all! And not all transgender people elect to transition medically. Though some might use hormones and bear surgical procedures to create the specified modifications of their our bodies, some trans people don’t select to do that. Medical transition may also be costly and inaccessible to many.

Transgender individuals who don’t transition medically are nonetheless transgender and ought to be acknowledged as such. There is not any such factor as a “full” medical transition, and surgical procedure is just not a measurement of who’s trans and who shouldn’t be. 6

It’s necessary to word that not everybody who reveals gender variance is a transgender individual. Think concerning the women in your life: some might current in a extra masculine or “butch” means, some might current in a way more female approach than you do. Gender expression is huge!

Cisgender (pronounced “sis-gender” and typically shortened to “cis”) is a time period meaning, merely, that one’s gender id matches the intercourse they have been assigned at delivery. It means not transgender. If somebody refers to you as cisgender or cis, don’t take offense. It’s only a method of claiming that you don’t share the expertise of being transgender. 7

Our society expects that if somebody is assigned male at delivery, they may categorical their gender in a masculine trend and interact in historically male pursuits and actions. Conversely, we anticipate that if somebody is assigned feminine, they’ll categorical their gender in a female means and be fascinated with sometimes “girly” issues. The method that somebody expresses their gender to the surface world is gender expression. It is protected to say that folks don’t all the time simply conform to the aforementioned expectations, and that countless mixtures of assigned intercourse, gender id, and gender expression are attainable.

At GGS, all women are welcome — whatever the intercourse they have been assigned at delivery, and if their gender is fluid. The mission assertion says “…we recognize that everyone who identifies as a woman is a real woman.” I might take it one step additional and say that transgender women don’t simply determine as women. They are women.

It’s okay if new language and phrases really feel clumsy to you. Language evolves and modifications on a regular basis. If you’ve by no means executed it earlier than, chances are you’ll really feel unusual utilizing gender-neutral pronouns to refer to a singular individual. While it might not “feel” proper grammatically, it’s okay and necessary to use language in new methods!

Also fact be advised, we use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to singular people on a regular basis, for instance somebody whose id we don’t know. Such as “Oh, the supply individual got here? Where did they depart the package deal?” And the Associated Press Stylebook just lately acknowledged using “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun2

The significance of respecting a trans individual’s pronouns can’t be overstated. If you’re cisgender, it’s your duty to work by way of your personal discomfort with the brand new language.

Though you could be hesitant, it isn’t offensive to ask somebody what their pronouns are. Always ask when you’re unsure. Folks who’re trans, or whose gender expression might not match their assigned gender, will recognize this.

If asking feels uncomfortable, maybe lead by introducing your self and your personal pronouns. “Hi, I’m Erica, and my pronouns are she/her.” Practice going out of your consolation zone!

Being A Good Ally

So it’s okay to ask about pronouns, however what ought to I not ask a transgender individual? Great query! There are undoubtedly a number of issues that it is best to by no means ask about. They embrace:

  • Whether or not they’ve had any surgical procedure or are utilizing hormones
  • What physique elements they’ve
  • What their previous identify was

A great rule is to ask your self: would I be snug if this individual, probably a stranger or acquaintance, requested me about my medical enterprise, physique elements, and personal historical past? Most possible the reply is not any, so don’t ask! 5

Also keep away from asking transgender individuals to converse for all transgender individuals, or to give you transgender-specific assets that you would end up by doing a fast search on-line. Trans individuals get requested these questions by well-meaning allies on a regular basis, and it’s not work they need to have to do for us. Using the web, it isn’t troublesome to discover assets ourselves. 

There are many sensible methods you’ll be able to transfer ahead as an ally to transgender people:

  • When you’ve discovered somebody’s pronouns, make a robust effort to appropriately use them.
  • Briefly apologize and hold the dialog shifting in case you by chance misgender somebody. It’s doubtless that sooner or later, you will mess up somebody’s pronouns. Do not be offended in the event that they right you. There is not any want to cease the dialog for an extended apology that would make issues extra awkward for the trans individual — simply hold it temporary.
  • Refer to people solely utilizing the language they use themselves or the language they’ve given you permission to use. For instance, don’t name somebody genderqueer until they’ve explicitly requested you to refer to them with that label.
  • Take care to not out somebody. This means don’t speak about somebody’s standing as a transgender individual until they’ve given you permission to talk about it with others. It could be harmful for a trans individual in the event that they’re outed. 5
  • A great (and straightforward!) rule is to use gender-neutral language every time attainable, particularly if you’re addressing a gaggle. Try “hey, folks,” “hey, everyone,” or “hey, friends” as an alternative of “hey, ladies” or “hey, guys.”
  • Be open to studying and rising with regard to these subjects. There actually is not any finish to studying about how gender works and how good allyship works. Even individuals inside the LGBTQ group are studying on a regular basis.

Here is extra info on being an ally to the transgender individuals in your life.

If you’d like to know extra, these are some useful assets.


  1. “Answers To Your Questions About Transgender People, Gender Identity, And Gender Expression”. American Psychological Association. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
  3. Easton L. “Making a case for a singular they.” Associated Press Blog. 2017. Web. 24 March 2017.
  4. Finch, Sam. “Transgender 101: A Guide To Gender And Identity To Help You Keep Up With The Conversation – Everyday Feminism”. Everyday Feminism. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
  5. “PFLAG” N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
  6. “Supporting The Transgender People In Your Life: A Guide To Being A Good Ally”. National Center for Transgender Equality. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
  7. “Transgender Terminology”. National Center for Transgender Equality. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
  8. “The True Meaning Of The Word ‘Cisgender’”. com. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.

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